Brett Lawrie -- Still young, still brittle, still time to grow

Brad White

The Blue Jays third basemen hasn't managed to stay healthy, but he's still young enough that we might see a wealth of development yet.

There's not a lot to love about Brett Lawrie's Baseball-Reference page. In three seasons (well, three partial seasons, consider one late-season callup and four disabled-list stints), he's topped out at 11 home runs, 48 RBI, 13 stolen bases. Since his strong rookie season, he hasn't topped a 98 OPS+. I mean, I'd love to say I hit 11 big-league homers, but I doubt people expected quite as much out of me as they did out of Lawrie.

There is one line, though, that might inspire confidence: That old "162 Game Avg." line.

If you believe in the extrapolation, over the course of 162 games, Lawrie as a 21-to-23-year-old has put up 18 homers and 17 stolen bases per season. He's also contributed 82 runs and 70 RBI on the same scale. And again, dude turned 24 right around a month ago.

Sometimes, that's the problem with the youngest of arrivals. We dismiss them as "busts" or "disappointing" when they don't produce right away, but we get so used to seeing them in the big leagues that we forget that they're still just so young, that most players their age are still in, what, high-A? Double-A?

Assuming Lawrie continues to develop at anything like a normal rate - such as "normal" is - really, all we're looking for out of him is health. Now, of course, that's the rub with Lawrie. According to his Baseball Prospectus page, he's missed 94 big-league games to injury, and has been day-to-day or worse with like 10 different ailments.

So, while 162 games might be a stretch for a normal, healthy-ish player - everyone needs days off - it seems Herculean for Lawrie. That's why someone with his skills still only finished 14th in our consensus third-base rankings, behind someone as relatively unproven as Xander Bogaerts or others like Chase Headley and Manny Machado.

If Lawrie can buck his trend, though, and stay healthier in 2014 - maybe not 162 games, but 140? - it stands to reason that any sort of reasonable forward development, and the should-be-decent offense in Toronto, he could (finally) start rising in the third-base rankings.

He's still only 24. Barring serious injury to some of the top guys, Lawrie won't be catching Miguel Cabrera or the Adrian Beltre-Evan Longoria-David Wright triumvirate this year. But positive development on Lawrie's end could easily see him join the next set of third basemen.

Best bet for 2014 is to start with Lawrie as your corner infielder or bench bat. Relying on him before he proves he can stay healthy is a dicey proposition. But he's a guy you should want on your fantasy roster, if only for the extreme upside.

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